The Western Cape government plans to invest heavily in broadband infrastructure, with both the State IT Agency (Sita) and Neotel set to provide services to 2 000 sites in the province. There are also plans to offer free Wi-Fi access at these sites.
Premier Helen Zille made the promise during her state of the province address in Cape Town on Friday.
“I am very pleased to announce that the Western Cape government, Sita and Neotel have signed a strategic agreement to provide broadband services to approximately 2 000 government sites, including schools, libraries and health facilities over the next two to three years,” said Zille.
One of the province’s main priorities is making the Western Cape a leader in broadband access, she says. “This is essential if we want to grow the economy, create jobs and become internationally competitive.”
By May 2016, all sites will be connected with minimum speeds of 10Mbit/s under this agreement, she added. By August 2018, most sites will be connected by fibre-optic cables, with 90% of sites enjoying 100Mbit/s speeds and 10% getting 1Gbit/s.
“Our government is also committed to ensuring that our communities can tangibly benefit from this agreement. Neotel has therefore generously committed to funding the infrastructure rollout of 384 Wi-Fi hotspots, using Western Cape government buildings, which will cover almost every ward in the province. Our government will be subsidising the free portion of citizens’ Internet access.”
The hotspots will be rolled out over a period of four years, as Neotel builds out the fibre network, said Zille. Every citizen will have the opportunity to access “limited free” Internet at the hotspots.
“We believe the roll-out of these hotspots will be a game-changer for development. It will help reduce the digital divide, make economic opportunities more accessible and generate new business opportunities,” the premier said.
The provincial department of economic development and tourism will also establish a new business incubator to support entrepreneurial talent and aspiring “techies” in disadvantaged communities.
“Our internationally acclaimed Bandwidth Barn has achieved outstanding success and it is time to replicate this concept,” she said.
Neotel has said it will spend a quarter of the value of the contract with local companies and will use small businesses and local labour during the construction of the network.
Neotel has also agreed to provide seed funding for the establishment of a Western Cape Broadband Foundation, which will use private-sector contributions to help develop innovative broadband-related solutions. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media